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Wednesday 21st August 2019

Cancer higher among gay men

10th May 2011

A new US study suggests that cancer rates are much higher among gay men than among men who are heterosexual, though the researchers say they are still doubtful about the results of their study.


The study authors are calling for further research on people who have not already had cancer, since the study subjects were all cancer survivors.

Lead researcher Ulrike Boehmer, from the Boston University School of Public Health, said she believed that it was still not possible to conclude that gay men had higher rates of cancer, since the data pool the researchers studied was limited.

She said, however, since more gay men reported being cancer survivors, caregivers needed to come up with programmes for gay men that focused on primary cancer prevention and early cancer detection.

Jason Warriner, clinical director for HIV and sexual health at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said that HIV could cause certain types of cancer, and that gay men were at a greater risk of HIV than straight men.

For the study, the researchers relied on surveys done in 2001, 2003, and 2005.

While over 122,000 people took part in the surveys, a very small fraction identified themselves as homosexual and bisexual.

In total, just under 1,500 men said they were gay, and 918 women described themselves as lesbians.

More than 1,100 women also said they were bisexual.

And about 3,700 men and 7,300 women said they had previously been diagnosed with cancer.

The researchers concluded that the gay men who took part in the survey were about twice as likely as straight men to be cancer survivors.

However, the number of cancer survivors in a given population may not actually reflect the prevalence of cancer.

Some cancer patients would have died, and some would have been left out of the study, so the study could equally well point to a link between gay men and cancer survival, if there is any link at all.

The authors said they believed that, if there were actually a statistical link between being a gay male and getting cancer, HIV infection could be the cause.

Jessica Harris, senior health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said that there was already some evidence that people's sexuality and cancer rates were linked, but that the study did not make it clear why gay men in California were more likely to have been diagnosed with cancer than their straight peers.

The study authors also noticed that lesbians and women who were bisexual seemed to have a harder time staying healthy.

Boehmer said that one common explanation for why lesbian and bisexual women reported worse health compared to heterosexual women was minority stress, and that experiences of discrimination, prejudice, and violence might all play a role in the development of poor health in women.

She said that, since more lesbian and bisexual women reported being in poor health, caregivers needed to come up with programs and services that improved the well-being of lesbian and bisexual cancer survivors.

HIV has been linked to Kaposi sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, in addition to testicular cancer, lung cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma.


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